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Crowdfunding site Christie Street one-ups Kickstarter with audits, backer refunds

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christie street
christie street

On Kickstarter and most crowdfunding platforms, the conventional wisdom is "backer beware" — just because a product gets funded doesn't mean it will ever see the light of day. For reminders, see the $343,415-funded ZionEyez video recording glasses, whose backers have given up hope, as well as the disappointing i+case for iPhone and the saga of the cursed eco-friendly flip-flop. The problem got to be so bad that Kickstarter tightened its rules on hardware projects and even prohibited certain categories such as home improvement products.

One entrepreneur has launched a competing crowdfunding platform for products that will address this issue with extreme prejudice. Serial entrepreneur Jamie Siminoff plans to audit the design, cost estimates, and manufacturing plan for projects listed on the new, so that every product listed is explicitly endorsed. Siminoff already has relationships with manufacturers in multiple industries through his product lab Edison Junior. He plans to draw on them to help review the campaigns on Christie Street for viability.

"I think if you're making money off of transactions, then you have an obligation."

Funds will be dispersed in thirds so that backers can get a partial refund if a product fails to achieve a pre-production prototype or a manufacturing sample. Backers can also purchase insurance for an extra ten percent in order to guarantee a full refund if the product doesn't ship.

The process will protect backers, Siminoff says, but it'll also protect inventors from hurting their reputations with flopped products. "I think if you're making money off of transactions, then you have an obligation to make sure that you've gone through at least the appropriate stages," he told The Verge. "The buyer is not an engineer. It's not fair to have someone who sees some cool product to go on there to decide if something can get made or not."

The first campaign on Christie Street is an Edison Junior invention: DoorBot, the video doorbell that connects to your smartphone and tablet has raised $8,887 out of $250,000 with 45 days remaining. Since product campaigns tend to raise in the hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars, Siminoff believes Christie Street can perform full audits for a five percent cut, the same as Kickstarter's. However, he acknowledged that Christie Street may need to raise its fee in the future.